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Uneven and ultimately disappointing
30 July 2003
I won't argue over what was fact or fiction in this film. That has sparked enough controversy on its own, just read the other reviews. If anything (and yes, this is a good thing), this film has sparked my own interest in finding out the truth--time to hit the books and draw my own conclusions after I'm better read.

My problems with the film are filmic. The cut we have now leaves us with a movie that could more aptly be titled "The Stonewall Jackson Story." I kept waiting for other sides of the story to be examined, for other characters to be fleshed-out better, but the story kept gravitating back to the world of General Jackson. Being a Civil War neophyte, I expected a rounder, more holistic view of the early Civil War. Instead, there were long-winded monologues/prayers by Jackson and a backstory of his various experiences....pretty dull stuff cinematically, and nothing I felt did anything to aid the greater good of the film. I do not question Jackson's significance to the war, but the time Maxwell devotes to his story only diminishes from the overall story. Had this been a biography on Jackson, sadly, it still would have been pretty dull.

That said, the film did enjoy fairly good acting, except for a deplorable and shameless Ted Turner showing his face as a Confederate Colonel and destroying any continuity of the scene. It makes the viewer go "Great, there's Ted Turner. Isn't he the guy that ruined all those classic black-and-white movies by colorizing them?" Too bad Robert Duvall was kept to such a minimum, it makes me wonder if General Lee was that subdued in reality. And why was Jeff Daniels even in this film? I kept waiting for his character to get more screen time...it never came. Even if his character is brought into light in Gettysburg, his appearance here is almost trivial.

I can only imaging that directing this type of story would be a nightmare. Although there is an established narrative, how you cram all of it into its running time is a battle in itself---maybe all the editing down resulted in so much emphasis on Lang's character. I've seen countless "theatrical" cuts of films that were stinkers compared to their longer director's cut...maybe that comes out in this instance as well (remember how bad Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America was in its shorter run time?). I have no problem with six-hour programs, if the material is that good.

I would have like to have seen more "horrors" of war, as well. This film seemed a bit tame for the contemporary war film in its presentation of battlefield gore. Whether you like the film or not, Saving Private Ryan did show us that battle is not all blood squibs...men die in horrific fashion and seeing it definitely has a dramatic impact. I wish Maxwell had extended this a bit more here. I've seen photographs of Civil War dead, and nothing is more haunting..isn't that worth accentuating?

I did enjoy this film, although I expected more from it. Definitely watchable, and more importantly for me, a call to action to investigate deeper this critical chapter in our history.
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Art is certainly in the eye..
4 January 2003
I went to film school,saw plenty of avante garde films in my time and I acknowledge there is a place for them. Not every film is designed for every viewer, and that's certainly the case with Lynch films.

That said, I must admit that this film lost my attention early on. Something in Lynch's work fails to build the intrigue, it just comes out as just plain odd and ultimately dull. A much more effective effort would be Christopher Nolan's Memento (duly mentioned in an earlier review). Yes, the genius in Memento may have been Nolan's ability to tell the story backwards, but his story began to pay dividends with characters with whom we were interested--and I actually WANTED to see it again. By the closing of Mulholland Drive, I was just disappointed. Just like Dune, just like Blue Velvet, et al.

People that like this film may say the rest of us are simpletons, and if their brains are that big, so be it. But if there is any story to be made from this film, it certainly takes too much analyzing for this to be entertaining. And upon reading the "spoiled" translation of a previous reviewer, shouldn't I be going "oh yeah!" instead of "ho hum?" Even when it's spread out on the table, it's dull!

I love that David Lynch can make films, it's always nice to see something out there that doesn't have Jerry Bruckheimer stamped all over it, or Ben Affleck playing Jack Ryan (hee hee). But I find his films to be disjointed and unrewarding, with bad acting, sluggish pacing and soft-porn production values. To say I could do any better would be pointless, I simply wouldn't know how to make this sort of film. Can you imagine trying to explain the script to the cast and crew?

Obviously, a lot of people liked this film. If there is one thing that divides our personal tastes, it's the movies.
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Session 9 (2001)
Good premise, not so great movie
10 September 2002
I kept waiting and waiting for this film to deliver...it didn't. Yes, it is definitely influenced by The Shining. But it never builds any real tension or true fright like Kubrick's film.

Bad acting (yeah, some of it was Caruso's), highly contrived/unnatural dialogue, and scenes that go nowhere adds up to a frustrating and often comical film. I found it to be just pretentious.

I am really surprised that some people actually loved this movie. It's a mistake to compare this film to bad films in order to make it more palatable. House on Haunted Hill? Scream? Come on, people, these are teenager date films, hardly in the same genre.
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A misfire for Bakshi, that much is certain
8 September 2002
I won't dwell on the purists' outrage over Bakshi's liberties with story or characters. For the most part, they are correct. I'm certainly not coming to the filmmaker's defense, but in the context of the material's density, animation technology of 1978, et al., this guy really took a swing at bringing this thing to the silver screen.

Sadly, the film wasn't that good. Much of the animation was disjointed, and most of the backgrounds were crudely drawn and failed to create the correct atmosphere that one gets from reading the book. I will say, though, that I have always liked the rotoscoping, in particular that of the orcs. There is something exceedingly frightening about the way they are displayed, something today's CGI characterizations seems to miss. Bakshi used this technique in his other works as well, particularly in Wizards, which is a better, if different, film than his version of LotR. But mixing purely-drawn characters (hobbits) with those that are rotoscoped (orcs) just didn't look right here.

I must agree with some others who assert that some of the frame direction and scene selection is oddly similar to Peter Jackson's version of late. And if Jackson was influenced by at least SOME of the look of Bakshi's film, then what's the harm?

If you want to be dazzled, this version of LotR probably won't rouse you. There's many more misses than hits. But it isn't as bad as many would have you believe. If it weren't a Tolkien adaptation, I think it would be received much better.
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